Back to Basics: Rule 3

I know we all love ice cream and candy, but processed sugars are bad for you.  And yes, I am including artificial sweeteners here. The key isn’t finding ways to eat more candy, it’s finding a balance in your diet so you stop craving it.


– They become addictive, so it’s hard to stop eating. Processed sugars have what is called a “high glycemic index,” which essentially means they spike your blood sugar, then drop it off a cliff. This starts a cycle of fatigue, which makes you eat more (usually more sugar), which spikes your blood sugar and drops if off another cliff, so you eat more (usually more sugar). This is much like a drug addiction cycle, and it acts the same way, causing you to crave more and more sugar.

-They make you fat. This is a three-parter:

Artificial sweeteners break the metabolic cycle, and can cause weight gain even though they have fewer calories than sugar (and in some cases, no calories). There’s a lot of science behind this that you can look up if you want, but the simple explanation is that your body is programmed to rev up your metabolism when it tastes sweet, because sweet things usually have more calories. Your body is very smart, and doesn’t like wasting energy; so, it stops this cycle once it realizes there aren’t going to be any more calories coming.

Processed sugars, like HFCS and table sugar, are empty calories. No nutrients, just calories.  So, either nutrient rich foods are being replaced by sugars, or are being eaten on top of them. Usually, it’s the latter.

-Some are processed through the liver. Why is that bad? Again, there’s a lot of science-y stuff here, but essentially it means that they can be turned directly into fat, and that they signal your body to keep turning other things into fat. So, even if you’re only eating your necessary amount of calories per day, if you’re getting a lot of them via processed sugars you may have a difficult time losing or maintaining weight.

-Processed sugars, especially liquids like High Fructose Corn Syrup, can contribute to insulin resistance, which translates into diabetes.

-Artificial sweeteners have some nasty long-term side effects, and some are known to be carcinogenic (meaning they elevate your risk for certain cancers).

-Your getting far more of them in your daily diet than you likely know about. Ever looked at the back of a jar of tomato sauce? About 90% of those jars will have “sugar” or “high fructose corn syrup (HFCS)” listed as an ingredient. Loaves of bread? About 85% of what is sold in most supermarkets contain a processed sweetener. While some people say that sugar and HFCS are fine in moderation, it’s very difficult to get them in what most people would consider “moderation.”

-There are great alternatives, so there’s no real need. Natural sweets, like honey and whole fruit, have lower glycemic indexes, and so won’t spike your blood sugar like processed sugars do. These natural sweets also contain beneficial ingredients, so they’re not just empty calories.

How to Stop:

There are two schools of thought on this, one that works and one that doesn’t (in my humble opinion). Sugar is addictive, and you have to break that cycle. You really just need to stop eating it, and live with the fact that you want a candy bar. I recommend a “sugar fast,” or a complete break from all processed sugars, for 2 weeks. Eat fruits and veggies, add some honey to your coffee, but no processed sugars, not even in your bread and pasta. The first few days will be awful, but you’ll live through it. After that, it’s much easier. After 2 weeks, your cravings should be gone. At that point, I’ll allow myself a treat once in a while (by which I mean every few weeks for a birthday party or something), but still stick to natural sources of sugar.

The other method is to  “wean” yourself off, and slowly switch over to natural sugars. I’ve known far more people to fail at this method than succeed, but if you’re not ready to go cold turkey, you can give it a try.

Everyone I know who has given up processed sugars and artificial sweeteners on a regular basis feels better and has a much easier time maintaining their weight.


3 responses to “Back to Basics: Rule 3

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